The two-match Test series between Sri Lanka and England was closely fought; in fact the games were so tight that both Tests went into the last over of the final day. At Lord's, Sri Lanka managed to stave off defeat while at Leeds, they somehow managed to pull off a win out of nowhere. With a bit of luck, the results could have gone England's way. At the same time, it must be admitted that Sri Lanka deserved the rub of the green that went their way considering the manner in which they fought throughout the series. In the end, the result was a fair indication of Sri Lanka's progress as a Test side.
In many ways, the story of the series was about two balls and two skippers with contrasting fortunes. England needed one wicket to win the Lord’s Test. Off the penultimate delivery bowled by Stuart Broad, Nuwan Pradeep was declared lbw by the umpire, and England burst into victory celebrations But, the number eleven reviewed the decision, and got it overturned. The next ball, Pradeed edged it just short of the second slip fielder. He had survived, Sri Lanka had saved the match, and England were heartbroken.
Cut to Leeds, and the situation was playing itself all over again. Only this time, the pressure was on England. James Anderson was in Pradeep’s shoes. He had batted with admirable grit and patience and showed a wonderful technique to occupy the crease for well over an hour. And then, the penultimate ball syndrome worked its wonder for the Lankans. Shaminda Eranga dug one short, and Anderson did not possess the technique to keep the ball out. Herath took the catch to end the nightmare for his side. Lanka were jubilant, and Anderson was absolutely gutted. There was no DRS drama this time round.
Speaking of the two captains, the series was a case of chalk and cheese. Angelo Mathews dug in hard for a wonderful hundred in the first innings of the Lord’s Test to aid Kumar Sangakkara. He did not contribute much with the ball, but came up with a significant all-round effort in the Leeds Test. After falling for 26 in the first innings, he claimed four key wickets to restrict England’s lead. Then, in the second innings, he made a splendid 160, which set up Sri Lanka’s rare away win.
In contrast, Alastair Cook was completely insipid with the bat. He managed only 17 and 28 at Lord’s. He did not do any better at Leeds with scores of 17 and 16. These low scores added to Cook’s growing list of failures. The pressure on him has grown further with the Ashes loss preceding this. With him not performing with the bat, his limitations as a leader also have been exposed. Unlike Mark Taylor, with whom he is being compared, he just hasn’t found a way to inspire his team, and look beyond his personal failures. That’s where the comparison must thus end.
--By A Cricket Analyst